Seward: Book summary and reviews of Seward by Walter Stahr

Seward

Lincoln's Indispensable Man

by Walter Stahr

Seward by Walter Stahr
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2012
    608 pages
    Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

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Book Summary

William Henry Seward was one of the most important Americans of the nineteenth century: progressive governor of New York, outspoken U.S. senator, odds-on favorite to win the 1860 Republican nomination for president, secretary of state and Lincoln's closest friend and advisor during the Civil War, target of assassins on the night Lincoln was killed, staunch supporter of President Andrew Johnson (Lincoln's unpopular successor), driving force behind "Seward’s Folly" (the purchase of Alaska from Russia), and the man who laid the groundwork for the acquisition of Hawaii and set America on course to becoming a world power.

Seward had a hand in so many policies that he became a controversial and at times polarizing figure. Some of Lincoln's critics even saw him, erroneously, as the power behind the throne, the man who controlled Lincoln. But Seward's most important role was in keeping Britain and France from recognizing the Confederacy as an independent nation, thereby contributing greatly to the Union's ultimate victory. Seward was also a fascinating person in his own right. Most nights this well-known raconteur with unruly hair and untidy clothes would gather diplomats, soldiers, politicians, and actors around his table to enjoy a cigar, a drink, and a good story.

Drawing on hundreds of sources long neglected by previous biographers, Seward sheds new light on this complex and central figure, as well as on pivotal events of the Civil War and its aftermath.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. [T]here’s no doubting that this formidable figure has finally gained the biographer he’s long deserved." - Publishers Weekly

"This magnificent biography finally provides what William Henry Seward so justly deserves—a full, terrific and complex portrait of his endlessly fascinating life." - Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals

"After a rocky start during which Seward crossed swords with Lincoln in the issue of Fort Sumter and other matters, the secretary of state did indeed become the president's most indispensable ally. Politician, diplomat, raconteur, a figure of controversy and power, Seward has finally found a biographer equal to his importance." - James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

"A beautifully told, carefully researched narrative of William H. Seward's momentous career, from his days as a rising young antislavery politician to his role as Lincoln's right-hand man during the Civil War, culminating in his achievements as architect of American empire. Walter Stahr has delivered a biography worthy of one of America's greatest statesmen." - Daniel Walker Howe, author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848

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Walter Stahr is the author of John Jay: Founding Father, a biography of America's first Supreme Court Chief Justice. He lives in Exeter, New Hampshire, and Vienna, Virginia.

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